Louise Bryant 1919
Source: THE REVOLUTIONARY AGE, Saturday, January 25, 1919;
Online Version: marxists.org 2001;
Transcription/Markup: Sally Ryan
On a certain cold and lonely night in January, in the present year of Our Lord 1919, I sat up hugging my little coal fire and reading countless garbled and absurdly serious accounts of the spread of the Bolshevik movement in America, the bombs found in Philadelphia, the German Revolution, Anarchy, Red Terror and sentimental stories of Mr. Wilson's visit to the King of Italy.... At last utterly exhausted attempting to find any truth in this fabric of lies, I fell asleep over my paper.
I seemed to be in Moscow, although it was a century from the present time and I, or my spirit, seemed still to be anxiously looking for news and the interpretation of events. I walked hurriedly along through the crooked streets and stopped beside a snow-covered cottage on the edge of the beautiful old city, a friendly light shone from the window and curiosity prompted me to look inside.
The great-grandchildren of Nicolai Lenin were sitting around a cosy log fire and the grandson of Scott Nearing, who was then visiting Moscow as a delegate from the All-American Republic of Soviets had come into the nursery to say "good-night." The children were not sleepy and did not want to go to bed, so they begged the grandson of Scott Nearing to tell them a story. "Tell us," they cried, "how the revolution began in America!"
The visitor sat down on a low stool and the children grouped themselves comfortably around him. "It seems countless ages," he began, "although in reality old men in my country can still remember it."
"When Nicholas II, the last Czar of Russia was deposed, American workmen rejoiced with the rest of the World, but a few months later when the Soviets came into power they held strangely aloof. American workers were at this time and for a long time afterwards the most credulous and the least class conscious of any workers in the world and they had been told that all Russia had gone mad and that the Red Terror was an orgy of a depraved and degenerate people. They were also afraid of internationalism."
"The next monarch to lose his crown was the haughty Wilhelm of Germany. Charles of Austria followed within a week and all the heads of those small countries under their domination. France, England, Italy, Spain, Japan and other capitalistic countries still flourished and still planned to hold a conference at Versailles and to create a League of Nations, which was in reality a clever scheme for international policing to stop the further progress of revolution. And they still talked boldly of continuing the invasion of Russia and the destruction of the Soviets.
"All this was brought to a sudden end by the outburst of revolution in Italy at the very moment President Wilson was banqueting with the royal family. This Italian upheaval was of so violent a nature that President Wilson was forced to flee in disguise and in the short space of time it took him to get aboard boat and sail home, the suppressed countries under British rule, Ireland, India and South Africa revolted and were backed up by British Labor. After that the governments of Spain, France, Greece and Rumania rumbled over like blocks, in rapid succession. Bolshevism spread and embraced Finland, Norway, Sweden, China and even Japan. Within a year the whole world had accepted the new order. That is all but America. She alone remained isolated and reactionary.
"As fast as each European or Asiatic country accepted socialism, Mr. Creel and Mr Sisson, who you will remember in your histories as two of the most ridiculous characters of the old order, aided by a huge staff of Special Correspondents, produced documents to prove that each new revolution was the work of German agents and all the leaders paid by German gold. By a special edict of the government, newspapers were forced to give half their precious space for the daily printing or this false evidence."
"Feeling ran high in America among the few not in prison, who still dared to believe in any sort of freedom. Intolerance was exhibited by all sides. One day a company of militant suffragists stormed the executive mansion and treated President Wilson so roughly that the diamond studded wrist-watch given him by the Queen of England, was broken. He even became so meek that he committed the first and only impulsive act of his life and offered to go straightaway with the ladies before Congress, without even the formality of stopping to get his high silk hat."
"Neither the House nor the Senate would have anything to do with him. They were busy passing resolutions of a very different nature. They informed the country, through the press the following morning, that they had no intention of extending Suffrage; on the other hand, they were taking drastic and immediate action to restrict it. And they blamed president Wilson for bandying the word democracy until it was taken seriously by the mob. By this method the Republicans swept the Democrats off the map in the next election....
Here one of the children interrupted to ask just what the fundamental difference was between the Republicans and Democrats.
"There were two great political parties in America" explained the grandson of Nearing, "both believed in exactly the same principles--private loot of public property. The Republicans were dominated by the great corporations and the Democrats were dominated by the little shop keepers. This explanation was of course entirely clear to these class conscious children. I had noticed from the first that they were exceptionally precocious.
"America at this moment" he went on "was in a very sad state. All foreign loans had been cancelled and we were absolutely shut off from trade with the whole outside world. Even Canada would not have any dealings with us. Factories shut down and the poor suffered unspeakably.
"It was just about this time that the cast-off rulers of the old world began to be felt as an influence in our daily life One afternoon the Czar and the Czarina and the Czarevitch and the four handsome Grand Duchesses appeared in full court regalia in a box at the Century Theatre in New York, and the audience was commanded to stand up between acts as a mark of respect.
"It had been known for some time that the Czar had not been murdered. All the royalties of the world had gathered in America. New York had been startled one morning by the arrival of George and Mary of England and all their relatives in an aeroplane. They circled over the city and alighted on the roof of the best hotel. And shortly after they were installed in what is vulgarly known in little towns as the bridal suite. Other kings and guests followed with their relatives. They lived lavishly, after their custom, and being royalty did not bother to pay their bills. Of course the hotels went bankrupt one after the other. In fact, the hardship caused by foreign potentates on our kindly native millionaires was pitiful to behold. Almost everyone with over a million dollars was forced to take in a crowned head.
"For some time the kaiser's family was a difficult problem, as there still lingered an old prejudice against him. William English Walling, John Spargo, Jim Duncan and other loyal Socialists came to the rescue and got out a pamphlet explaining how he was tricked into the war by the treacherous Bolsheviki, while his cousin George of England made a public statement as to his character; the outcome was a great reconciliation banquet which cost the City of New York $l00,000.
"As time went on and the deposed monarchs began to get restive on account of inaction and many of them went into business. Their ancient coats of arms appeared on the stationery of every important Trust. But even this did not satisfy them. They chartered special trains and went out over the country, visiting different states and being entertained by Mayors and Society people generally.
"The whole trouble seems to have been the outcome of these journeys. And the fact was that they weary of being guests; they longed to be rulers again..: "
King Albert of Belgium, an extremely practical man, conceived the clever idea of changing the American states into fourty-eight separate kingdoms. In that way there could easily be a kingdom for each ex-ruler, with the large and rich counties divided into dutchies, thereby satisfying everybody.
"The kings held a convention in New York and unanimously adopted Albert's proposal; but when they came to decide who should rule the greatest states, harmony disappeared and the Convention was in an uproar. As no decision could be reached, the outcome was that they all went to lobby before Congress on their individual claims.
"Congress in those days was so sorely harassed that it was just in the mood to shift its responsibilities on anybody's shoulder. It was forced to levy great public taxes called Royalty Loans, in order to take care of our uninvited guests, and in spite of the fact that these loans were not popular, Congress was forced to go even further. The result was lower wages and an increased price of food. Everywhere was starvation and discontent. Even the middle class was restless. Fifth Avenue on a sunny afternoon was an amazing sight: Kings and queens and princesses and ladies-in-waiting strutted up and down in shimmering attire. Our troops were often reviewed for their pleasure. Americans of all classes were ordered by imperial ukase to step off the side-walk and remove their hats in the presence of foreign aristocracy. There was also much talk of removing the statues of our revolutionary fathers and substituting such arch defenders of divine right as Napoleon, Bismark and Peter the Great.
"It was while Congress was debating the most workable plan for the separation of the states into kingdoms that our revolution began. Your illustrious grandfather Nicolai Lenin was still alive and when American revolutionists cabled him the great news he sent back this jovial reply: America certainly was a hard not to crack! For us one Czar was enough but for you it took over fourty regular monarchs and 2,500 relatives. But remember that the deposing of a monarch is only the first step in a real revolution. Now for the great final emancipation! My long suffering, surpressed comrades welcome to the Society of International Brotherhood!"
There was a loud crash. I sat up in my chair and confronted a mangy alley cat, which is in a hurry to go somewhere or to get out of somebody's way had inadvertantly jumped through my tenement window and ruined my dream. Now I will never know how that comic opera revolution was finally achieved in America.